Killing Fields Journalist Speaks on American War Trends

Renowned American journal­ist and war correspondent Sydney Schanberg visited Colgate Monday, March 28, to give a lecture on the nature of American war.

Schanberg is best known for his reporting for the New York Times during the early 1970s, when he spent time in Vietnam, Cambo­dia and East Pakistan. The 1984 Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields was based on his reporting from Cambodia, in which Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston.

In 1976, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, and among many other commendations, he was the recipient of two George Polk Awards. Schanberg was also the New York Times Metropolitan Editor and an Op-Ed columnist. He has published three books in­cluding his most recent, Beyond the Killing Fields, an anthology of his writings on war.

“Everybody in America should un­derstand that if this is a democracy, we should know what war is like,” Schan­berg said, whose lecture focused on the importance of an informed public during times of war and the danger of unnecessary conflict.

Schanberg began by referencing Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech, in which the former presi­dent warned about what he called the “military industrial complex.” He said that since wars stimulate economies, there would be a larger incentive to go to war in the future.

“Eisenhower was really on to something,” Schanberg said, who fears Eisenhower’s prediction has come true. Vehemently anti-war, Schan­berg expressed his desire to see Americans “get angrier” about the unnecessary wars in which the nation now finds, itself. Schanberg addressed the Ameri­can trend of “mindlessly” going to war, saying that this problem has only grown worse, as the U.S. is now involved in multiple wars overseas.

“I feel that America has lost its way,” Schanberg said. “The idea of multiple wars does not sound very American to me.”

Schanberg expressed that his career as a journalist exposed him to flaws in the United States’ ap­proach to international politics, especially concerning war.

“I don’t think we realize just how broken our Washington gov­ernment is,” Schanberg said. “I don’t think we’ve learned how to be world citizens yet.”

“Mr. Schanberg’s lecture was a unique opportunity to hear from one of the most respected journalists in U.S. history,” first-year Michael Barber said.

Visiting Assistant Professor of His­tory Robert Rakove was responsible for coordinating the lecture.

“I thought that Sydney Schan­berg had something unique to of­fer the Colgate community. Here is someone able to really talk about what happened in South­east Asia and convey it to contem­porary audiences. That showed in tonight’s lecture, and I’m delight­ed that we were able to host him,” Rakove said.

“Sydney Schanberg’s report­ing from Cambodia, Vietnam and East Pakistan forms a cru­cial part of our collective un­derstanding of the wars and genocides that ravaged those places and that era,” Associate Professor of Anthropology and Peace & Conflict Studies Nancy Ries said.

In his lecture, Schanberg may have expressed a more negative perspective on U.S. politics, but he has hope for a better future. Schanberg stated that he be­lieves President Obama knows the correct way to approach (or avoid) war, but that a larger ideological transformation con­cerning international conflict is still needed.

“Can we look at the idea of only going to war as a last re­sort?” Schanberg asked. “Because that’s the only way we can make it a better country.”